2022 NFL Draft: Defensive End Rankings – Tier 1
As the NFL offseason kicks off, I wanted to focus my draft coverage on positions I think the Eagles front office will target on April 28th.
With Josh Sweat signing his 3-year, $40 million extension and soon-to-be 34-year old Brandon Graham coming off a ruptured Achilles, it makes sense to target another edge rusher within the first two days of the draft.
This year, the 2022 NFL Draft defensive end class is stacked with possibly five players projected to be first-round picks. With such a deep class, there should be some diamonds in the rough later on for the Eagles to pick up. While many on the Tier One list are out of the Eagles’ range, here are my 2022 NFL Draft Defensive End Tier One List.
1. Aiden Hutchinson, 6-6, 269 lbs, Michigan
+ multiple efficient pass rush combinations
+ strong hand placement at point of attack, sheds blocks with ease
+ top-level agility, inside counters keep tackles on their heels
– pass rush motor, can hold onto linemen for too long diagnosing play
– shorter arms than expected for his size/position
PFF’s top-rated edge rusher is a bonafide Top 3 pick. Despite being labeled a “fringe first-rounder” to start the season, Hutchinson finished with a 93.3 pass-rush grade, highlighted by three separate three-sack performances against Washington, Penn State, and Ohio State.
One negative performance or “room to improve” game on his resume was against Georgia. Against high-level SEC offensive linemen, he managed to total only a single pressure and just two tackles under the bright lights of the CFP Semi-Final game.
Pro Comparison: More explosive Jared Allen
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, 6-5, 258 pounds, Oregon
+ “lab-created” frame for an edge prospect
+ explosive get off combined with an arsenal of moves
+ terrific bend as a 5-tech with bull rush capabilities
– relied on his elite athleticism rather than refined pass rush moves in some games
– somewhat injury-prone during his time in college
The Oregon product’s height, weight, length, and speed off the ball is as if someone created the ultimate archetype for an edge rusher in Madden. While missing some time due to an ankle injury this past season, Thibodeaux proved to be just as efficient as his counterpart top edge prospect, Aiden Hutchinson.
The Michigan Man’s 429 pass-rush snaps ranked 11th in the nation compared to Thibodeaux’s 290 snaps, almost a 33% decrease in attempts. But they’re 2021 numbers ended up being quite similar despite that disparity:
- 74 pressures
- 14 sacks
- 9 QB Hits
- 24.8 win %
- PFF 93.3 pass-rush grade
- 48 pressures
- 9 sacks
- 11 QB Hits
- 23.1% win rate
- PFF 91.5 pass rush grade
Pro Comparison: Von Miller-type potential
3. George Karlaftis, 6-4, 275 pounds, Purdue
+ versatility on the defensive line, can line up anywhere
+ devastating bull rush, tons of lower body power/leverage
– ineffective speed rush move but uses it often despite being 275 pounds
– improvement against the run, hand placement needs work to shed blocks inside
Despite playing on the left edge for most of the 2021 season, it’s tough to see Karlaftis consistently excelling there at the next level. His bowling ball frame and natural power seem more fitting on the inside as a 3-tech defensive tackle. And that’s where his versatility brings value. Purdue’s “Iron Man” played at least 49 snaps in every game except for one last season and finished tied for 13th in the nation with 52 total pressures.
Pro Comparison: Heavier Brandon Graham
4. Kingsley Enagbare, 6-4, 265 lbs, South Carolina
+ every snap is 110% effort, non-stop motor
+ long arms/violent hands keep tackles at a distance
+ above-average bend/speed around the edge
– can play too fast and find himself out of position
– needs discipline in his role at the next level to become more consistent
The former 4-star recruit from Atlanta quietly had another dominating season in the SEC after garnering First-Team All-SEC Honors in 2020. While only finishing with four sacks, PFF ranked him with the highest pass-rush grade in the conference and 3rd in the nation at 92.5.
Despite having a solid 2020 campaign, Enagbare made even more strides this past season. He nearly doubled his pressures from 24 to 45, decreased his missed tackle rate from 23.3% to 12.2%, and bumped his win rate from 18% to 25.8%, tied for 11th in the nation. In one of his tougher matchups against Kentucky’s first-round offensive tackle, Darian Kennard, Enagbare totaled six tackles, four stops, four pressures, one QB hit, and a 20% win rate.
Pro Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney when he actually tries
5. Arnold Ebiketie, 6-3, 256 lbs, Penn State
+ another non-stop motor guy, shows up in his consistent production
+ elevated his game at every level he’s played at
+ good hands to mix up speed to power moves
– size/frame can be a concern against bulldozer linemen
– needs to improve lower body strength to gain leverage
Some may see this as Penn State bias from myself, but I had the chance to watch almost every snap from Ebiketie this season. The Temple transfer needed a lights-out season to improve his draft stock, playing in the more competitive Big Ten. Not only did he step up, but Ebiketie also became one of the premier pass rushers in the conference.
- 4th most total pressures (52)
- T-2nd most QB Hits (12)
- 5th highest win rate (22.9%)
- 5th highest PFF pass-rush grade (90.5)
The Silver Spring, Maryland native proved that his game is only getting better with more reps and experience. After overpowering AAC offensive linemen, many wondered if AK’s playstyle would translate when matched against much larger and more skilled tackles. Against Ohio State and Michigan, Ebiketie combined for 14 pressures, two sacks, with a 21.4% win rate against the Buckeyes and a 30% win rate against the Wolverines.
Pro Comparison: Potential to be “the good” Yannick Ngakoue
Mandatory Photo Credit: Stephen Brashear, Associated Press